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Tesla Opens Gigafactory To Expand Battery Production, Sales

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Tesla Motors model S cars are charged at the new Tesla Gigafactory, Tuesday, July 26, 2016, in Sparks, Nev.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

(AP) — It's Tesla Motors' biggest bet yet: A massive, $5 billion factory in the Nevada desert that could almost double the world's production of lithium-ion batteries by 2018.

Tesla officially opened its Gigafactory Tuesday. The factory is 14 percent complete; when it's finished, it will be more than 10 million square feet, or about the size of 260 professional football fields. That will make it one of the largest buildings in the world.

The factory is crucial to meeting Tesla's goal of going from a niche maker of luxury vehicles to a full-line maker of affordable cars, pickups and semi trucks.

Tesla recently pushed ahead its goal of making 500,000 vehicles per year to 2018 after big initial demand for its upcoming Model 3 sedan, which goes on sale next year.